Blog
June 6, 2024

Plain-text Credentials and Secrets: How to Detect and Remove Them at Scale

Is your organisation's data security a weak link? This article ventures into plain text credentials' important yet often overlooked realm, revealing their inherent risks and impacts on business security.

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Here, we'll guide you through effective strategies to safeguard these credentials and demonstrate how Metomic's cutting-edge software can bolster your data security.

By the end, you'll gain essential insights into transforming your data security from a security concern and potential liability into a robust, defensible asset.

What are plain text credentials?

Plain text credentials or plaintext passwords are user login information, like usernames and passwords, stored in a readable format. It's like writing your bank PIN on a sticky note and leaving it on your desk – anyone who finds it can read it easily. Plain text credentials are also exposed, making them a big security risk. They are simple, making it easier to design and troubleshoot systems, but also create a big security problem.

The main issue with plain text credentials is that they must be made more difficult to understand. In cybersecurity, this is like solving a puzzle; it changes data into a harder form without a specific key or knowledge. Without this added complexity, plain text credentials become a tempting target for hackers.

When these credentials are intercepted, which can happen through network sniffing, phishing, or system breaches, they can be used or sold immediately. This makes them very dangerous in the hands of cybercriminals who are always looking for easy targets.

What types of data can they hold?

Plain text credentials can hold sensitive data. Depending on their use, they can contain usernames and passwords for individual accounts. This might seem harmless, but in today's landscape, one account can give access to personal and professional information. For example, if someone hacks an email account, they can see emails, personal information, account details, and links to other accounts through password resets.

In a corporate setting, plain text credentials are even more dangerous. They can restrict access to critical systems, employee information, proprietary data, and more. In industries like healthcare or finance, where strict regulations exist, unauthorised access to this data can have legal consequences and financial and reputational harm.

The risk system compromise is even greater if these credentials have administrative or high-level access. Attackers can cause major damage to an organisation. Organisations must understand the wide range of data that can be compromised through plain text credentials and take steps to secure it effectively.

How secure are plain-text credentials?

Plain text credentials are inherently insecure due to their lack of encryption, making them susceptible to cyber-attacks. The absence of encryption means that the data is stored and transmitted in an easily readable and interpretable format.

This poses a significant risk in scenarios like network interception (where data can be read during transmission) or unauthorised system access (where stored data can be directly viewed).

The dangers of storing data in plain text credentials

Storing data as plain text credentials is risky for businesses, and storing sensitive information without encryption can cause many security, legal, and financial problems. The vulnerabilities of a plaintext password and text storage make these credentials easy targets for cyber threats.

  • Increased Risk of Data Breaches: Plain text credentials are easy targets for hackers, leading to potential data breaches. The simplicity of accessing unencrypted data means that once a system is compromised, sensitive information can be extracted without additional effort.
  • Vulnerability to Insider Threats: Employees with malicious intent or negligence can easily access and misuse information stored in plain text, causing internal data breaches and reputational damage.
  • Compliance Violations: Many industries have regulations that mandate the protection of sensitive data. Storing credentials in plain text can lead to non-compliance with laws like GDPR and HIPAA, resulting in hefty fines and legal complications.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks: Plain text credentials can be easily exploited in phishing schemes, where employees are tricked into revealing sensitive information, leading to unauthorised access and financial loss.
  • Increased Cost of Incident Response: A breach resulting from compromised plain text credentials often necessitates a costly incident response, including IT forensics, public relations efforts, and customer notification processes.
  • Damage to Brand Reputation: The public exposure of a data breach can erode customer trust and loyalty, especially if the breach is due to poor security practices like storing data in plain text.
  • Operational Disruptions: Cyberattacks exploiting plain text credentials can lead to significant operational disruptions, impacting business continuity and causing loss of revenue.

What are the solutions to protect data in plain text credentials?

Protecting data currently stored in plain text credentials requires a multi-faceted approach, blending technology, policy, and awareness. The goal is to transform vulnerable data storage practices into a secure framework that minimises the risk of unauthorised file access, and data breaches.

  • Encryption of Sensitive Data: Implementing strong encryption algorithms (like AES or RSA) ensures that data, even if accessed, remains unreadable without the corresponding decryption keys.
  • Regular Credential Rotation and Management: Updating credentials and using automated management systems can prevent prolonged unauthorised access.
  • Use of Hashing for Password Storage: Storing passwords as hashed values, particularly with salt, makes it virtually impossible to reverse-engineer them back to plain text.
  • Implementation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security, ensuring that even if credentials are compromised, unauthorised access is still blocked.
  • Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing: These practices help identify and rectify plain text credential storage vulnerabilities.
  • Employee Training and Awareness Programs: Educating staff about the dangers of poor data security practices and training them in secure password management.
  • Data Access Policies and Controls: Establishing strict access controls and policies to limit who can access sensitive data and under what circumstances.

How to protect against plain text credentials at scale

Protecting data on a large scale, especially in organisations with vast amounts of sensitive information, demands automated and scalable solutions. Automation not only eases the burden of security problems on IT teams but also ensures consistent application of security policies across the board.

  • Automated Encryption Tools: Utilising software that automatically encrypts data as it is stored or transmitted significantly reduces the risk of human error and ensures consistent data protection.
  • Centralised Credential Management Systems: These systems automate the process of password rotation, issuance, and revocation, providing a scalable solution for managing credentials across large organisations.
  • Automated Compliance Checking Tools: Tools that automatically scan and identify non-compliance issues, like plain text storage, help maintain regulatory standards.
  • Integration of Security into DevOps (DevSecOps): Incorporating security practices into the software development lifecycle ensures that data protection is considered from the onset, especially in scalable cloud-based environments.
  • API-based Security Solutions: APIs enable the integration of various security tools and systems, allowing for a scalable and customisable approach to data protection.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic’s data security software secures sensitive data in your SaaS applications; businesses can enhance their data protection strategies in the following ways:

  • Detect Sensitive Data: Metomic automatically detects sensitive data across many SaaS platforms, including plain text credentials. This feature allows for discovering Personally Identifiable Information (PII), confidential data, and secrets, ensuring nothing goes unnoticed.
  • Advanced Data Discovery and Risk Assessment: With Metomic, you can triage risks efficiently using our AI-powered software, which provides a detailed analysis at both employee and department levels. This profound insight enables businesses to pinpoint and prioritise the most critical data risks.
  • Automated Remediation: Metomic automates security policies across your SaaS apps. It can redact sensitive data, control access levels, and label documents to prevent data leaks, ensuring your plain text credentials are secured and managed effectively.
  • Human Firewall Empowerment: Metomic empowers employees to be part of the security solution. Real-time notifications alert employees when policy breaches occur, enabling them to self-remediate risks. This approach fosters a culture of data security awareness and proactive prevention at scale.

Ready to elevate your organisation's data security and leave the risks of plain text credentials behind? Discover how Metomic can revolutionise your approach to data protection. Book a demo today and take the first step to secure your application's properties and data.

Here, we'll guide you through effective strategies to safeguard these credentials and demonstrate how Metomic's cutting-edge software can bolster your data security.

By the end, you'll gain essential insights into transforming your data security from a security concern and potential liability into a robust, defensible asset.

What are plain text credentials?

Plain text credentials or plaintext passwords are user login information, like usernames and passwords, stored in a readable format. It's like writing your bank PIN on a sticky note and leaving it on your desk – anyone who finds it can read it easily. Plain text credentials are also exposed, making them a big security risk. They are simple, making it easier to design and troubleshoot systems, but also create a big security problem.

The main issue with plain text credentials is that they must be made more difficult to understand. In cybersecurity, this is like solving a puzzle; it changes data into a harder form without a specific key or knowledge. Without this added complexity, plain text credentials become a tempting target for hackers.

When these credentials are intercepted, which can happen through network sniffing, phishing, or system breaches, they can be used or sold immediately. This makes them very dangerous in the hands of cybercriminals who are always looking for easy targets.

What types of data can they hold?

Plain text credentials can hold sensitive data. Depending on their use, they can contain usernames and passwords for individual accounts. This might seem harmless, but in today's landscape, one account can give access to personal and professional information. For example, if someone hacks an email account, they can see emails, personal information, account details, and links to other accounts through password resets.

In a corporate setting, plain text credentials are even more dangerous. They can restrict access to critical systems, employee information, proprietary data, and more. In industries like healthcare or finance, where strict regulations exist, unauthorised access to this data can have legal consequences and financial and reputational harm.

The risk system compromise is even greater if these credentials have administrative or high-level access. Attackers can cause major damage to an organisation. Organisations must understand the wide range of data that can be compromised through plain text credentials and take steps to secure it effectively.

How secure are plain-text credentials?

Plain text credentials are inherently insecure due to their lack of encryption, making them susceptible to cyber-attacks. The absence of encryption means that the data is stored and transmitted in an easily readable and interpretable format.

This poses a significant risk in scenarios like network interception (where data can be read during transmission) or unauthorised system access (where stored data can be directly viewed).

The dangers of storing data in plain text credentials

Storing data as plain text credentials is risky for businesses, and storing sensitive information without encryption can cause many security, legal, and financial problems. The vulnerabilities of a plaintext password and text storage make these credentials easy targets for cyber threats.

  • Increased Risk of Data Breaches: Plain text credentials are easy targets for hackers, leading to potential data breaches. The simplicity of accessing unencrypted data means that once a system is compromised, sensitive information can be extracted without additional effort.
  • Vulnerability to Insider Threats: Employees with malicious intent or negligence can easily access and misuse information stored in plain text, causing internal data breaches and reputational damage.
  • Compliance Violations: Many industries have regulations that mandate the protection of sensitive data. Storing credentials in plain text can lead to non-compliance with laws like GDPR and HIPAA, resulting in hefty fines and legal complications.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks: Plain text credentials can be easily exploited in phishing schemes, where employees are tricked into revealing sensitive information, leading to unauthorised access and financial loss.
  • Increased Cost of Incident Response: A breach resulting from compromised plain text credentials often necessitates a costly incident response, including IT forensics, public relations efforts, and customer notification processes.
  • Damage to Brand Reputation: The public exposure of a data breach can erode customer trust and loyalty, especially if the breach is due to poor security practices like storing data in plain text.
  • Operational Disruptions: Cyberattacks exploiting plain text credentials can lead to significant operational disruptions, impacting business continuity and causing loss of revenue.

What are the solutions to protect data in plain text credentials?

Protecting data currently stored in plain text credentials requires a multi-faceted approach, blending technology, policy, and awareness. The goal is to transform vulnerable data storage practices into a secure framework that minimises the risk of unauthorised file access, and data breaches.

  • Encryption of Sensitive Data: Implementing strong encryption algorithms (like AES or RSA) ensures that data, even if accessed, remains unreadable without the corresponding decryption keys.
  • Regular Credential Rotation and Management: Updating credentials and using automated management systems can prevent prolonged unauthorised access.
  • Use of Hashing for Password Storage: Storing passwords as hashed values, particularly with salt, makes it virtually impossible to reverse-engineer them back to plain text.
  • Implementation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security, ensuring that even if credentials are compromised, unauthorised access is still blocked.
  • Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing: These practices help identify and rectify plain text credential storage vulnerabilities.
  • Employee Training and Awareness Programs: Educating staff about the dangers of poor data security practices and training them in secure password management.
  • Data Access Policies and Controls: Establishing strict access controls and policies to limit who can access sensitive data and under what circumstances.

How to protect against plain text credentials at scale

Protecting data on a large scale, especially in organisations with vast amounts of sensitive information, demands automated and scalable solutions. Automation not only eases the burden of security problems on IT teams but also ensures consistent application of security policies across the board.

  • Automated Encryption Tools: Utilising software that automatically encrypts data as it is stored or transmitted significantly reduces the risk of human error and ensures consistent data protection.
  • Centralised Credential Management Systems: These systems automate the process of password rotation, issuance, and revocation, providing a scalable solution for managing credentials across large organisations.
  • Automated Compliance Checking Tools: Tools that automatically scan and identify non-compliance issues, like plain text storage, help maintain regulatory standards.
  • Integration of Security into DevOps (DevSecOps): Incorporating security practices into the software development lifecycle ensures that data protection is considered from the onset, especially in scalable cloud-based environments.
  • API-based Security Solutions: APIs enable the integration of various security tools and systems, allowing for a scalable and customisable approach to data protection.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic’s data security software secures sensitive data in your SaaS applications; businesses can enhance their data protection strategies in the following ways:

  • Detect Sensitive Data: Metomic automatically detects sensitive data across many SaaS platforms, including plain text credentials. This feature allows for discovering Personally Identifiable Information (PII), confidential data, and secrets, ensuring nothing goes unnoticed.
  • Advanced Data Discovery and Risk Assessment: With Metomic, you can triage risks efficiently using our AI-powered software, which provides a detailed analysis at both employee and department levels. This profound insight enables businesses to pinpoint and prioritise the most critical data risks.
  • Automated Remediation: Metomic automates security policies across your SaaS apps. It can redact sensitive data, control access levels, and label documents to prevent data leaks, ensuring your plain text credentials are secured and managed effectively.
  • Human Firewall Empowerment: Metomic empowers employees to be part of the security solution. Real-time notifications alert employees when policy breaches occur, enabling them to self-remediate risks. This approach fosters a culture of data security awareness and proactive prevention at scale.

Ready to elevate your organisation's data security and leave the risks of plain text credentials behind? Discover how Metomic can revolutionise your approach to data protection. Book a demo today and take the first step to secure your application's properties and data.

Here, we'll guide you through effective strategies to safeguard these credentials and demonstrate how Metomic's cutting-edge software can bolster your data security.

By the end, you'll gain essential insights into transforming your data security from a security concern and potential liability into a robust, defensible asset.

What are plain text credentials?

Plain text credentials or plaintext passwords are user login information, like usernames and passwords, stored in a readable format. It's like writing your bank PIN on a sticky note and leaving it on your desk – anyone who finds it can read it easily. Plain text credentials are also exposed, making them a big security risk. They are simple, making it easier to design and troubleshoot systems, but also create a big security problem.

The main issue with plain text credentials is that they must be made more difficult to understand. In cybersecurity, this is like solving a puzzle; it changes data into a harder form without a specific key or knowledge. Without this added complexity, plain text credentials become a tempting target for hackers.

When these credentials are intercepted, which can happen through network sniffing, phishing, or system breaches, they can be used or sold immediately. This makes them very dangerous in the hands of cybercriminals who are always looking for easy targets.

What types of data can they hold?

Plain text credentials can hold sensitive data. Depending on their use, they can contain usernames and passwords for individual accounts. This might seem harmless, but in today's landscape, one account can give access to personal and professional information. For example, if someone hacks an email account, they can see emails, personal information, account details, and links to other accounts through password resets.

In a corporate setting, plain text credentials are even more dangerous. They can restrict access to critical systems, employee information, proprietary data, and more. In industries like healthcare or finance, where strict regulations exist, unauthorised access to this data can have legal consequences and financial and reputational harm.

The risk system compromise is even greater if these credentials have administrative or high-level access. Attackers can cause major damage to an organisation. Organisations must understand the wide range of data that can be compromised through plain text credentials and take steps to secure it effectively.

How secure are plain-text credentials?

Plain text credentials are inherently insecure due to their lack of encryption, making them susceptible to cyber-attacks. The absence of encryption means that the data is stored and transmitted in an easily readable and interpretable format.

This poses a significant risk in scenarios like network interception (where data can be read during transmission) or unauthorised system access (where stored data can be directly viewed).

The dangers of storing data in plain text credentials

Storing data as plain text credentials is risky for businesses, and storing sensitive information without encryption can cause many security, legal, and financial problems. The vulnerabilities of a plaintext password and text storage make these credentials easy targets for cyber threats.

  • Increased Risk of Data Breaches: Plain text credentials are easy targets for hackers, leading to potential data breaches. The simplicity of accessing unencrypted data means that once a system is compromised, sensitive information can be extracted without additional effort.
  • Vulnerability to Insider Threats: Employees with malicious intent or negligence can easily access and misuse information stored in plain text, causing internal data breaches and reputational damage.
  • Compliance Violations: Many industries have regulations that mandate the protection of sensitive data. Storing credentials in plain text can lead to non-compliance with laws like GDPR and HIPAA, resulting in hefty fines and legal complications.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks: Plain text credentials can be easily exploited in phishing schemes, where employees are tricked into revealing sensitive information, leading to unauthorised access and financial loss.
  • Increased Cost of Incident Response: A breach resulting from compromised plain text credentials often necessitates a costly incident response, including IT forensics, public relations efforts, and customer notification processes.
  • Damage to Brand Reputation: The public exposure of a data breach can erode customer trust and loyalty, especially if the breach is due to poor security practices like storing data in plain text.
  • Operational Disruptions: Cyberattacks exploiting plain text credentials can lead to significant operational disruptions, impacting business continuity and causing loss of revenue.

What are the solutions to protect data in plain text credentials?

Protecting data currently stored in plain text credentials requires a multi-faceted approach, blending technology, policy, and awareness. The goal is to transform vulnerable data storage practices into a secure framework that minimises the risk of unauthorised file access, and data breaches.

  • Encryption of Sensitive Data: Implementing strong encryption algorithms (like AES or RSA) ensures that data, even if accessed, remains unreadable without the corresponding decryption keys.
  • Regular Credential Rotation and Management: Updating credentials and using automated management systems can prevent prolonged unauthorised access.
  • Use of Hashing for Password Storage: Storing passwords as hashed values, particularly with salt, makes it virtually impossible to reverse-engineer them back to plain text.
  • Implementation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security, ensuring that even if credentials are compromised, unauthorised access is still blocked.
  • Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing: These practices help identify and rectify plain text credential storage vulnerabilities.
  • Employee Training and Awareness Programs: Educating staff about the dangers of poor data security practices and training them in secure password management.
  • Data Access Policies and Controls: Establishing strict access controls and policies to limit who can access sensitive data and under what circumstances.

How to protect against plain text credentials at scale

Protecting data on a large scale, especially in organisations with vast amounts of sensitive information, demands automated and scalable solutions. Automation not only eases the burden of security problems on IT teams but also ensures consistent application of security policies across the board.

  • Automated Encryption Tools: Utilising software that automatically encrypts data as it is stored or transmitted significantly reduces the risk of human error and ensures consistent data protection.
  • Centralised Credential Management Systems: These systems automate the process of password rotation, issuance, and revocation, providing a scalable solution for managing credentials across large organisations.
  • Automated Compliance Checking Tools: Tools that automatically scan and identify non-compliance issues, like plain text storage, help maintain regulatory standards.
  • Integration of Security into DevOps (DevSecOps): Incorporating security practices into the software development lifecycle ensures that data protection is considered from the onset, especially in scalable cloud-based environments.
  • API-based Security Solutions: APIs enable the integration of various security tools and systems, allowing for a scalable and customisable approach to data protection.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic’s data security software secures sensitive data in your SaaS applications; businesses can enhance their data protection strategies in the following ways:

  • Detect Sensitive Data: Metomic automatically detects sensitive data across many SaaS platforms, including plain text credentials. This feature allows for discovering Personally Identifiable Information (PII), confidential data, and secrets, ensuring nothing goes unnoticed.
  • Advanced Data Discovery and Risk Assessment: With Metomic, you can triage risks efficiently using our AI-powered software, which provides a detailed analysis at both employee and department levels. This profound insight enables businesses to pinpoint and prioritise the most critical data risks.
  • Automated Remediation: Metomic automates security policies across your SaaS apps. It can redact sensitive data, control access levels, and label documents to prevent data leaks, ensuring your plain text credentials are secured and managed effectively.
  • Human Firewall Empowerment: Metomic empowers employees to be part of the security solution. Real-time notifications alert employees when policy breaches occur, enabling them to self-remediate risks. This approach fosters a culture of data security awareness and proactive prevention at scale.

Ready to elevate your organisation's data security and leave the risks of plain text credentials behind? Discover how Metomic can revolutionise your approach to data protection. Book a demo today and take the first step to secure your application's properties and data.